Keepers' Diaries, June 2004

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Ithumba Reintegration Unit

On the l8th June, six of our Nursery Elephants graduated to the new Re-introduction Facility at Ithumba in the Northern Area of Tsavo. Emily’s family of 31 still dependent elephants was becoming too unwieldy for our Keepers to handle during the dry season. Furthermore, we would like the Voi orphans to grow up to the point when they need no longer be sheltered in the Night Stockades to protect them from lion attack. The introduction of more small babies from the Nairobi Nursery inevitably anchors the older females, who remain to care for them.

On the l8th June, six of our Nursery Elephants graduated to the new Re-introduction Facility at Ithumba in the Northern Area of Tsavo. Emily’s family of 31 still dependent elephants was becoming too unwieldy for our Keepers to handle during the dry season. Furthermore, we would like the Voi orphans to grow up to the point when they need no longer be sheltered in the Night Stockades to protect them from lion attack. The introduction of more small babies from the Nairobi Nursery inevitably anchors the older females, who remain to care for them.

The June section of this Diary relates events surrounding the arrival of Wendi, Napasha, Tomboi, Selengai, Taita and Olmalo from the Nairobi Nursery, who were joined several days later by Mulika, Nasalot, Kinna and Yatta from the Voi Unit.

From this initial Diary, it is obvious that Nasalot has taken up the mantle of Matriarch. Kinna and Yatta remain a little distant, and of the four older elephants, are probably missing their Voi friends the most. I am sure that this will change, signs of this on the 30th, when they headed out into the bush “swinging their trunks from side to side”, which is the elephant body language of happiness. Already, the older elephants are taking charge of discipline and instilling good behaviour, breaking up squabbles, and punishing those that have transgressed, i.e. Tomboi when he pushed Olmalo and was chased away by Nasalot, who rushed to Olmalo’s assistance. As the lead bull, Napasha is displaying his bull independence and confidence, dealing with the mongoose that scared Olmalo, and teaching the smaller babies how to cope with the drying vegetation. Selengai chased off a dikdik, (which is quite a brave thing for a baby elephant to do). I am confident that these l0 front runners in our new Ithumba Re-integration base will thrive in the Tsavo environment, which is, ostensibly, prime elephant country, with all the correct minerals and nutrients in the vegetation to ensure that they grow up strong and healthy. The Northern Area of Tsavo at one time was reknowned for its huge Tuskers. In the fifties and sixties it was not unusual in an afternoon’s drive along the Tiva River to see half a dozen massive bulls, each carrying ivory of well over 100 lbs. a side. The poaching holocaust of the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s changed all that, but today the elephants are returning to the North, an area they abandoned for three decades, and some of those massive Tuskers are still living, having been in hiding all these years.

June 2004 day to day

18 Jun

Wendi and Selengai also tried to jump out of the lorry when the upper tailgate was opened. The Keepers blocked them from doing so. Napasha did not display any difficulty in coping with the new environment, and immediately began to browse.
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